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Wind farm, state turbine study hearings are set for same day

BOURNE – The Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health will conduct a joint public hearing Feb. 16 into a state study gauging health effects of wind-energy projects. The session will be held at Bourne High School, starting at 5 p.m.

The departments will take public testimony into the perceived health impacts of turbines as considered in the state study, but it is anticipated that local opponents of the planned New Generation Wind turbines north of the canal in Bournedale and Buzzards Bay will attend the session.

The New Generation wind-farm plan is in review by the voting members of the Cape Cod Commission. That review continues Feb. 16 as well in Barnstable. The project is the first land-based wind-farm proposal in Massachusetts.

The commission seems to have been caught off guard by the recent state environmental and public health secretaries’ message that turbines as planned by New Generation do not present vegetable-oil impacts as hazardous materials and that the industrial-grade structures would not adversely impact public water-supply areas.

The state officials also warn the commission, that though it enjoys regulatory power and is empowered to decide such issues, rejection of New Generation plans could serve as a deterrent to other alternative energy ventures on the Cape at a time when Massachusetts is trying to derive 20 percent of its electric power from such proposals by the year 2020.

What to do!

The commission has options. It could approve the New Generation wind-farm proposal and send it to Bourne Planning Board Review. It could reject the plan as recommended by its staff and review sub-committee. Or it could send the proposal back to sub-panel analysis, review and scrutiny of the official and high-level state sentiment about adverse impacts – or the stated lack of them.

Generally, the commission tries to avoid costly litigation; but at least one voting member has said publicly she anticipates a court appeal no matter what the agency decides on New Generation’s four-turbine plan.

The commission staff, in its review of the controversial plan, did not take into account health impacts of turbines, probably because it has no policy to follow when considering wind-farm sound; something that would be quickly examined by Bourne planners and the health board should the controversial plan pass muster with the commission.

New Generation opponents argue the wind farm will impact their property values, quality of life and general overall health with no reassurance from developers that if living conditions in the shadows of the turbines become untenable – due to operational or technological reasons – everything would be made right.

New Generation proponents say there is a demonstrated public need for wind-generated energy; but they do not live next to the wind-farm tracts.

And the commission finds itself dealing with a wind-farm issue submitted for development of regional impact review before turbine guidelines were promulgated by the agency.